If you’re like most people, you think of yourself as a hard worker, and you probably are. However, you probably have wasted time in your day that could be put to better use. By addressing the five practices of procrastination, planning, prioritizing, communications, and delegation, you can significantly raise your own productivity. Chances are you could improve in one or more of these areas.
For most people, procrastination is the biggest time-sink. The first step to overcoming procrastination is to acknowledge that you procrastinate, whether you’re reading email, chatting with a co-worker, or thinking about getting a snack from the vending machine. Knowing the things that you’re most likely to procrastinate about is another way to diffuse the time-killing power of procrastination. What do you put off as long as possible and why? Identify the reasoning behind your procrastination and you can often find solutions, such as breaking down overwhelming projects, or rescheduling them so you get them out of the way sooner. Banishing procrastination does wonders for your time management.
Planning is necessary for new projects and for repeated tasks. Using a computer calendar or a desk planner for recording repeat projects gives you a “heads up” for when you need to start getting ready for repeat tasks (such as quarterly tax preparation). For big projects, break it down into steps and assign dates to complete the steps. If you delegate tasks, keep track of who is doing it and how they are progressing. Planning is one tool that can help prevent procrastination as well as making big projects seem more manageable.
Prioritizing tasks is a big time saver. If you bounce from task to task, not completing any of them, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of the day. If you find yourself constantly panicking to meet deadlines, it’s a good sign that you need to prioritize your tasks better. Prioritizing takes place both short term (like prioritizing items in your in box every day) and long term (by prioritizing longer term projects based on deadlines).
Communication can prevent lots of problems. Make sure you understand instructions given to you and that instructions you give to those who report to you are clear. If your boss gives you instructions for something you need to do by noon, try repeating the instructions back in your own words at the end of the conversation to ensure that you understand. Be clear and concise, and if there appears to be confusion, try to clear it up immediately.
Effective delegation is a fifth way to increase productivity at work. If you have staff that report to you, delegate what you can without overburdening them. If you have a routine task that the summer intern can attend to, communicate your instructions clearly and leave the task to him or her. Always review delegated work promptly to ensure it’s been done properly. If so, sincerely thank the person. After all, they’re saving you time to pursue higher level work without the hassle.
Anyone can increase their productivity by practicing a few basic steps like avoiding procrastination, planning adequately, prioritizing tasks, communicating clearly, delegating when possible.
Successful management ensures that a business or organization fulfills its tasks and achieves its objectives. Since there are so many different types of people and so many different styles of management, it would be wrong to say that any one style of management is best. Much depends on a good fit between the manager and those who report to him or her. The type of business is also important, as is whether the business is fast-paced and deadline driven or more laid back. Successful management is definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
Many people are familiar with the classic “Management by Objectives” or MBO approach, which first became popular in the 1950s. This is simply a process where the manager and employees agree on objectives and understand their role in the business or organization. MBO involves comparing the employees’ performance with the standards that have been set. The idea is, if employees are involved with setting goals and choosing courses of action, they are most likely to successfully fulfill their responsibilities.
Some management scholars contend that the style of leadership in an organization depends upon the prevailing circumstances. Therefore, the theory goes, leaders should be capable of using different management styles as appropriate. For example, autocratic managers make the decisions and expect them to be carried out. They may or may not closely supervise the employees. Autocratic managers may project an image of an organization that is competent and well-managed. If they do their job poorly, or think that bullying is an effective management style, they’ll eventually alienate their employees, who are likely to look for better opportunities elsewhere.
Another management style is Democratic, where employees participate in decision making and communications between employees and management and vice versa are open. While this can be useful in situations where a range of specialized skills are needed, it can slow decision-making down and lead to stagnation and an unwillingness to take responsibility.
A style of management that became prominent in the late 1980s and 1990s was dubbed Management by Walking Around, and it involved managers listening carefully to their employees to diffuse potential problems, preferably in real time. The theory is that managers can gain a good understanding of employee morale and address issues before they become unmanageable. Problems may arise, however, of managers forgetting their primary role of making sure that the organization meets objectives on time and within budget.
Management fads come and go, but what can be found consistently is that certain types of organizations do well with a particular management type, but other organizations need another management style for full effectiveness. For example, a group of creative people, such as a graphic design department, may wilt under autocratic management, but may do fine working with managers who have a more laissez-faire (hands off) approach.
Most managers adapt naturally to one or two management styles, but may flounder when forced to use a different style. The best management is that which is well-suited to the employees and their tasks, as well as being suited to the personality and experience of the manager.
“Toyotism” is a name for the Toyota Production System, which was put in place by Japanese automaker Toyota after the Second World War. At that time, Japan was faced with starting their economy from square one, and Toyota, run by Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda, and engineer Taiichi Ohno developed a strategic vision to redeem the economy by selling cars to Japan and America. This vision was inspired in part by the works of William Edwards Deming and the writings of Henry Ford.
Toyota actually got the idea for its system of low inventories and reduction of waste not from Ford, but from visiting an American supermarket during a Toyota delegation visiting the U.S. in the 1950s. The Toyota delegation actually found many of Ford’s methods ineffective, even though Ford was the industry leader at the time. But they were quite impressed by a Piggly Wiggly supermarket, which only restocked goods once they had been bought by customers.
Toyota was inspired to apply this concept of reducing inventory, holding it to a level that was needed for a short period of time, and then reordering as a way to avoid waste. Toyota’s simple, efficient system of enterprise also consisted of reducing costs, maintaining optimal quality of products throughout the production chain, and making cars and their parts on demand (which came to be known as “just in time” production).
Toyotism also takes into consideration the opinions of the plant operators, having them participate in diagnosis of problems and solving them. In fact, Toyota strives for an integrated corporate culture that considers all concerned parties, including plant workers and engineers. This system permits a certain amount of breaking down of walls between functions and responsibilities, which tends to build confidence among workers, who know that their opinions are important.
The concepts inherent in the Toyota Production System is largely responsible for making Toyota the top carmaker in the world and a leader in manufacturing, production, and innovation. While many American businesses have tried to imitate Toyota’s approach to production, at times they have simply attacked high inventory levels without understanding the reasoning behind the just in time concept, and have experienced problems as a result.
Toyota’s ethic is to base management decisions on a long-term view, even if that comes at the expense of short-term profits, and this can be hard to swallow for many American businesses that focus on short term goals. The keys to success with the Toyota method are learning to recognize waste, avoiding becoming a slave to routine, and implementing practical problem solving techniques that involve line workers as well as white collar workers.
Two major sectors that have tried to benefit from implementing Toyota style management include construction and health care. The results have been uneven, and may be due to cultural differences between East and West, or due to a theory that “copying what works” is sufficient to reinvent a corporate culture without making the necessary changes in the philosophy that underlies those methods. But no one can deny how successful the Toyotism culture has been for its inventors.
Despite the almost constant push into new research on improving productivity, studies have shown that proven management techniques like setting targets and monitoring performance still help companies become more profitable and raise productivity.
Researchers from the London School of Economics, Stanford University, and the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. did a study in 2007 of more than 4,600 mid-sized factories in 12 countries to test these management techniques statistically. One conclusion was that the countries with the most productive factories were also the ones with the highest per capita incomes.
Another predictor of success was a company being multi-national. These companies tend to spread good management techniques better. One prime example of that is US multi-national companies adopting the lean manufacturing techniques pioneered by Japanese automaker Toyota.
But one place that managers consistently fell short was in thinking they were more effective than their workers thought they were. The study found little correlation between how managers assessed their management techniques and how productive the company was.
One management technique measured in the study was tracking of production. A firm would score highly in tracking if, for example, it had computer screens that displayed up-to-the-minute production totals and tracked progress toward targets. A firm that, say, tracked performance only when output clearly fell would receive a low score on tracking. The businesses that consistently tracked performance prevailed in terms of productivity.
The three broad categories of management practices studied were operations management, performance management, and people management. Regardless of country and industry, high scores in these three categories of management practices correlated with higher productivity.
A one-point increase in a company’s average rating on management practices in the survey translated into a 25% increase in productivity and a 65% increase in return on invested capital. Of these companies that were publicly traded, higher scoring ones had higher stock market valuations than publicly traded firms with worse management scores.
Technology, training, and motivation are three additional areas that successful companies invest in. Labor saving technology is an obvious booster of productivity. Proper training of workers also improves productivity. And keeping employees motivated, with competitive pay, incentives, rewards, and a clean and safe work environment are other productivity-enhancing management steps.
The bottom line results of the London School of Economics / Stanford University study showed that there’s no “secret formula” that makes companies more productive. In most cases it is simply putting into place well-known management practices such as tracking performance that makes the greatest difference to a company’s competitiveness.
This is excellent news for companies who make a commitment to improve productivity. It means that standard techniques that have been used for years are quite effective in making companies more successful.
Even the implementation of technology is rapidly becoming easier for companies with little capital to invest. Today there are plenty of free internet resources and web-based applications that allow even strapped companies to provide workers with the software they need for their work. The same is true for continuing training and education, with web-based applications widely available.
Productivity and good management practices are solidly linked, and any company can improve their standing by practicing solid management practices that have been proven to work.
If a teacher loses control of his or her classroom, it can be extremely difficult to regain it. Furthermore, the time a teacher must take to correct the bad behaviors that result from poor classroom management lowers student engagement in learning. Any effective technique of classroom management must involve clear communication by the teacher of the students’ academic and behavioral expectations. If students don’t know what is expected of them, the chances of having a well-managed class drop.
Classroom management techniques can be the subject of hot debate among educators. Different teachers come from different backgrounds and use different styles. The rock bottom basics of classroom management techniques are the communication of classroom rules and consistent enforcement of those rules, with positive consequences when rules are followed and negative consequences when they are not. This sets the stage for expectations becoming reality.
Preventative classroom management involves developing mutual respect between teacher and students, where the student offers support for all students and lays down clear rules and consequences for breaking them. With the preventative classroom management technique, students are given frequent feedback in regards to their academic performance and their behavior. Teachers must be prepared to explain to students the specific skills they must demonstrate to earn various rewards. Consistency of rewards and consequences is the key to success with preventative classroom management.
The Discipline with Dignity classroom management program is championed by founders Richard Curwin and Allen Mendler and is a flexible approach to effective management in the classroom. Discipline with Dignity concentrates on development of personal responsibility as a means for improving student behavior. Also emphasized are cooperation, shared decision making, mutual respect, and responsible thinking on the part of the students.
Positive Classrooms is a classroom management system that was developed by Robert DiGiulio. It focuses on four main factors: how teachers regard their students, how the classroom is physically set up, how skillfully teachers are able to instruct, and how well they address student infractions.
There are numerous “packaged” classroom management programs, but some teachers regard simple time management as the key to having a successful and engaged class. For example, there should be time set aside for routine classroom procedures like taking attendance and making announcements. Instructional time is when the actual teaching and learning take place. Time spent “on task” is the time students spend actively participating in learning activities like completing exercises or asking and responding to questions. Ideally, when classroom time is managed well, the students actively participate in learning and receive feedback on their work, which can prepare them for class projects completed outside of class and with regular homework.
Two of the biggest mistakes teachers make in regards to classroom management are using one-size-fits-all intervention strategies with bad behavior and being inconsistent in terms of expectations and consequences. Teachers should also not forget that time outside the classroom can improve classroom management. Simply saying hello to students in the hall or when they encounter them in the community can make a real difference to a student. Congratulating a student who has made a notable accomplishment is beneficial. Students who know that the teacher knows them by name and actually cares about their success are much more likely to be engaged in the learning process.
Good management of sales staff can make for improved sales and a happier workforce. But poor management of sales can mean reduced revenue and an unpleasant working environment. Accountability, compensation, engagement, motivation, and tackling problems early are the keys to keeping a sales operation humming along. Reporting, setting goals, recognizing superior results, and being careful about hiring are also important aspects of sales management.
Good salespeople are glad to be accountable as to how they spend their time and who they are in contact with. A lack of accountability can result in slacking off and slower sales. Many successful sales managers hold weekly meetings to exchange information and discuss the previous week’s activities. Managers who are on top of what is going on with salespeople can see quickly how accountable sales staff are and how to tackle problems before they get out of hand.
Salespeople should be compensated well when they sell well. Your base compensation system should be reasonable, and any commission and bonus system should be easy to understand and not so vague that it is open to interpretation. Salespeople have a hard time being motivated when they work within a compensation system that they don’t understand or that they feel is interpreted arbitrarily.
A good sales manager knows that a salesperson who is always in the office isn’t making sales, even if they’re busy on the phone. Encouraging salespeople to be in the field when possible, and on the phone making appointments when they can’t be in the field helps ensure that they keep their sales numbers up.
Motivation of salespeople is mostly a matter of having a sales division that is managed in a way that makes salespeople want to succeed. Micromanaging is generally damaging in a sales organization. The minimum of rules and procedures will allow sales staff to have some latitude in how they achieve success. Overburdening staff with rules and procedures can seriously slow down sales.
Motivating a salesperson who is struggling isn’t always easy, but showing that you support them and have confidence gets better results than berating them. It is not easy work, and when problems develop, the successful sales manager addresses it before it has a chance to get worse. Negative attitudes, however, usually hurt more than they help. A positive work environment and a positive attitude are much more productive for motivating employees.
Requiring a certain amount of reporting, without burying salespeople under mountains of paperwork is necessary in order to keep track of accountability and measure the results the salespeople are getting. In many workplaces, weekly and monthly reporting are adequate for providing good records without overburdening salespeople with paperwork requirements.
As a sales manager, your goals should be based upon reasonable expectations. Quotas should be based on what a reasonable week’s or month’s effort comprises. When salespeople exceed expectation, they should be encouraged and rewarded for it. In fact, by giving praise for good work, you as a manager make yourself more effective at times when criticism is necessary.
Being a good sales manager requires solid “people skills” as well as a willingness to hold salespeople accountable and reward them when they achieve success and reach goals.
Management style in health care environments is particularly important because effective management can positively affect people’s basic health, while ineffective management can negatively affect patient care and health. The field of health care management is changing as health care delivery changes.
No longer do people go to independent doctors with small practices who employ a single person to handle insurance filing. As the world of health care and health care compensation becomes more complex, effective health care management becomes increasingly important. And when a change in health care management styles is necessary, transparency between management and employees is more important than in most industries.
Evidence based health care management involves management meeting regularly with those who provide direct patient care to discuss the effectiveness of various health intervention strategies. The managers must use the documented evidence that they collect from front-line health care providers to shape policy and make decisions. The goal of this style of management is to improve care quality based on evidence of what works and what does not.
Utilization is a style of health care management that puts its focus on tracking and managing the utilization of health care services by patients. Pre-certification and concurrent review are two terms you may have read in the literature provided to you about employer-based insurance. Pre-certification means that a patient’s need for treatment must be reviewed and approved by administrators either before the treatment is given or before it can be approved in an insurance claim. Concurrent review is the determination of a patient’s need for ongoing health care and is done at the time of precertification. Utilization management focuses on reducing unnecessary health care procedures to keep costs in line.
Integrative health care management focuses on improving health care quality while lowering costs by quickly adapting to changes in health care technology that can improve services. Integrative management also considers the role of government in health care provision, because the government accounts for the majority of health care spending in the United States and many other countries.
If a health care provider determines that it needs to change management models to provide better care, it is particularly important given the direct effect management can have on people’s health to make the changes without disrupting services. Doing this typically requires that the organization identify the change agents (management and directors), change implementing employees (medical staff) and change recipients (patients).
It is to be expected that changes in health care management styles will produce resistance in some people who fear loss of authority, increased workload, or job insecurity. Communication between management and employees is the best way of ensuring that resistance is addressed sufficiently. When fears are based on rumors, morale tends to drop. Allowing those who have to implement changes to have a certain amount of decision-making authority is one way to address resistance and smooth the process of changing management styles.
Health care management requires constant monitoring of effectiveness. Ineffective management techniques not only frustrate those who provide direct patient care, but can cause health care services to be delivered inefficiently, with higher costs and lower patient satisfaction.
If you own a business and want to go after lucrative government contracts, you’ll need to become familiar with certain important management concepts. Two terms you will need to learn are COTR, which stands for Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative, and CGFM, which stands for Certified Government Financial Manager.
The COTR is a liaison between the government and the contractor and is usually a federal or state employee. COTRs must undergo standardized training and be certified. The COTR’s responsibilities include recommending authorizing or denying actions and expenses for task orders and deliverables. Most COTRs have to have technical expertise in a particular area in order to be able to translate government requirements into requirements put into acquisition documents for contractor bidding. Some agencies and jobs have Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) or Project Officers (POs) instead of COTRs.
A COTR monitors the contractor’s progress in fulfilling the technical aspects of a government contract, making sure that documentation and data are submitted on schedule. If the contractor misses a contractual requirement, the COTR is the one who informs the contractor and the main government contracting officer of this. Other responsibilities of COTRs include maintaining records, approving invoices and performing the final inspection and acceptance of work done on contract. But the COTR is not allowed to grant the contractor permission to stray from the contract requirements, nor can he or she ask the contractor to perform work outside what’s stated in the contract.
The CGFM receives his or her certification from the Association of Government Accountants. A CGFM may work at the federal, state, or local governmental level, though not all states recognize CGFM certification. Someone with CGFM certification may also work for a private contractor. The certification provides a degree of confidence that the CGFM is adequately trained, educated, and experienced for the tasks related to governmental financial management.
But while many CGFMs are accountants, not all are. A CGFM may be an auditor, budget analyst, program analyst, or some other type of financial management professional. The CGFM certification is used to designate that a professional has the knowledge and experience for governmental financial management and is dedicated to governmental accountability.
The CGFM designation is particularly important for accountancy agencies that want to do contract financial work for the government. While having someone who has earned CGFM certification on staff isn’t a requirement for getting government financial planning contracts, it is a way to make your firm stand out from the others and show that the firm employs professionals who are peers with their government counterparts. Having one or more CGFMs on staff shows government agencies that your firm knows the government environment.
While your company doesn’t necessarily have to be incorporated to gain government contracts, it certainly doesn’t hurt, and it provides various forms of protection to your company, such as asset protection, limited liability, and many tax advantages. Raising money through investment and borrowing is generally easier for corporations too. Some people say that having “Inc.” after your company’s name makes it appear more professional and competent too, which can’t hurt your chances of landing a lucrative government contract.
The laissez faire management style doesn’t work in every workplace, but in those where it does, it often works spectacularly well. In this style of management, the manager has a more hands-off approach and allows staff to manage their own areas of responsibility. It usually works best in groups that are highly professional, competent, and / or creative.
The laissez faire manager sets the tasks and is minimally involved in micromanaging the tasks carried out by staff. The manager, however must be available to coach staff members, supply information, and answer questions. When staff members are able to successfully take responsibility for their work, morale usually improves. But like any management style, there are advantages and disadvantages to the laissez faire style.
Advantages of laissez faire management style
- Staff members have plenty of opportunity to develop knowledge and skills
- Workers feel empowered
- Manager is able to focus where focus is needed rather than micromanaging
- Dormant leadership talents may emerge in some staff members
Disadvantages of laissez faire management style
- Decisions may not always reflect company interests
- Staff members may feel “lost” without guidance
- Goals risk not being met on time
Proponents of this style of management point to one of the most successful American businessmen of all time, investor Warren Buffett, who is head of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett is known for giving his subsidiary workers plenty of freedom and not constantly looking over their shoulders. “We tend to let our many subsidiaries operate on their own, without our supervising and monitoring them to any degree. Most managers use the independence we grant them magnificently,” he says in his 2010 Berkshire Hathaway annual report.
But rest assured, successful laissez faire managers like Warren Buffett do oversee performance to ensure they get the best results. It is a real balancing act between giving employees enough slack to be effective, but not enough to slack off. A certain degree of autonomy is very empowering for most people, but particularly for creative types or highly educated workers. Getting out of the way and letting employees do their job is the idea, and in many cases it works amazingly well.
At the same time, under-management can create problems when they people managers hire are not well qualified for their work. But with highly competent and experienced workers, over-management is seen as more demoralizing. The best laissez faire managers are the ones who are available to hear workers’ ideas and who are alert to the possibility of management problems and the potential for unrestrained workers to cause legal problems, as happened with companies like Enron in 2000.
The message of a good laissez faire manager is that as long as workers exceed expectations, everything will move along just fine, and incompetent leaders will eventually sift themselves out. It doesn’t work for every organization, and even leaders like Buffett have had their occasional setbacks. But in organizations where workers are competent, motivated, and confident, this management style is one of the best going.
Improving sales in your business is a matter of improving your sales skills, increasing sales performance, and practicing good sales techniques.
Improving sales skills can take several forms. For one thing, you can prioritize who you will and won’t spend your time selling to. You want to choose the prospects that are most likely to buy your products and avoid wasting time on prospects that are unlikely to buy. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to get caught up in chasing an unlikely prospect with your time and energy that could best be spent elsewhere. Another skill to work on is showing prospects how your product or service solves a problem rather than simply listing its features. Creating exciting sales presentations that pique the imagination is a very valuable sales skill, as is developing your voicemail talents. After all, you’re going to be using voicemail, so you might as well treat voicemail as your opportunity to make a one-on-one ad to a prospect.
Improving sales performance is a long-term prospect, but you can demonstrate incremental improvements quickly. Making yourself an authority in your field is one key to great sales performance. Knowing your products inside and out as well as competitors’ products gives you the broad grasp you need to show prospects how your product or service will solve a particular problem of theirs. Effective listening is another key to improved sales performance. Prospects are as a rule guarded against hard sells, and if you interrupt your client rather than listening, you risk missing your prospect telling you exactly what he or she wants and needs. Once you know what they need, you will have the expertise to match the product or service to that need. Improving your body language to communicate openness and interest (by avoiding crossing your arms and looking at your prospect when he or she speaks) also subtly helps sales performance.
Improving sales techniques is often a matter of remembering things you may have forgotten. For example, listen more and talk less. Starting out with a long sales pitch on a current special is a mistake. The prospect may be very interested in something else you offer, but they’ll write you off as a bore for going on about your own favorite products. Getting the prospect talking about their need is a great technique to help you tailor your pitch to their needs. Asking open ended questions generates useful information and helps the prospect think through their wants to get to the product he or she really needs to solve a problem. Instead of “Can I help you?” try, “Which of our products are you looking at today?” Also, find out why the person is looking for the product. Does she want a car that will save gas, or that her three soccer-playing kids will fit into? The answers to “why” questions help you know how to deliver your pitch.
If you’re proud of your products and services, show it when interacting with prospects, and regularly evaluate your own sales skills, performance, and techniques to maximize sales and help customers solve problems. Those are the keys to being tops in sales.